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Atherton Drive sore point with leaders
Several question citys ability to take over landscaping maintenance districts
Weeds along Atherton Drive frame buildings at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
Steve DeBrum is not a happy camper.

The Manteca City Councilman is getting frustrated about the condition of landscaping in and around The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley – Manteca’s marquee attraction. He also is getting tired of seeing nothing but weeds at Manteca’s “front door” at Yosemite Avenue and the Highway 99 interchange.

“There are bent and broken trees all over the place,” DeBrum said of the landscaping on the perimeter of the lifestyle center.

DeBrum isn’t pleased either with the city’s response to letting a contractor they were supposed to be keeping tabs on allowed landscaping to die along Atherton Drive while they were widening the road. The city did cut the weeds down but that is it. None of the dead grass and shrubs has been replaced.

“A million people have gone out there (to Bass Pro Shops) in five months and that is the impression we give them of Manteca,” DeBrum said.

“It is kind of like what happened along the Tidewater,” DeBrum said in reference to the bike path a few years back where irrigation issues snowballed when the city was unable to secure a critical pump that failed and much of the landscaping  died. It took years to replace.

In the case of Atherton Drive, the initial developer – AKF – spent $300,000 originally putting in the stretch of road way complete with landscaping along sound walls.

The dismal state of the Atherton Drive segment’s landscaping plus the overall appearance of the landscaping bulbs in the downtown district has made Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford wonder whether it is a good idea to have the city “take over” work on the 34 separate landscape maintenance districts in Manteca.

The mayor indicated he will not favor taking the work away from private contractor if the quality is not maintained.

DeBrum for his part said he’s keeping an open mind about whether the city taking over the maintenance by using park workers is a good idea. He indicated how the city staff responds to concerns he raised at the end of last week’s City Council meeting may impact how he ends up deciding on the proposed shift from private contractors to municipal workers.

DeBrum is also concerned if the landscaping levels aren’t maintained after a year with the city maintaining them “how much we’ll be on the hook.”

DeBrum noted since each district has property owners assessed for a specific level of maintenance they may have some type of recourse if the city fails to meet previous standards. If plants do die at a higher rate as the district is now set up, the property owners will simply be assessed more in the next year.

DeBrum also said he is open to having all of the administration of the district brought in house to save property owners money.

The Yosemite Avenue median landscaping as well as that on the Highway 99 interchange has funding from Measure K set aside. The landscaping plans are still awaiting Caltrans’ final approval.

When the landscaping is put in place, the city – under an agreement they made with Caltrans – must maintain the landscaping.

Municipal staff had proposed bringing the landscape maintenance districts in-house to snare $240,000 that would essentially save three parks worker jobs.

The idea was to lower maintainance levels at neighborhood parks to allow crews time to maintain the various landscape districts. Staff believes by having resources concentrated in areas – there are neighborhood parks and sound walls all around Manteca – they can obtain a level of efficiency without reducing the maintenance level of landscaping.

Property owners collectively pay just under $1 million a year in landscape maintenance costs.